Johnny Winter, 1944-2014

JOHNNY WINTER, BLUES guitar virtuoso and master of the Gibson Firebird, has sadly died in Switzerland at the age of 70. The news was first reported by American Blues Scene earlier today and was later confirmed by his representative. Winter and his younger brother Edgar lived and breathed the blues. Born in the heart of the Mississippi Delta on February 23, 1944, Johnny began playing the guitar in his pre-teen years and saw first-hand how the master bluesman of the day (Muddy Waters, B.B. King) made their music. “When I was about 12, I knew I wanted to be a musician,” he recently told “The blues had so much emotion and so much feeling; if you don't have that, you're not going to be good at it.” At 15 he formed his first band, Johnny And The Jammers, featuring brother Edgar on keyboards. The group quickly became an outlet for his obsession with the electric sound of ’50s rock’n’roll.

His first album, The Progressive Blues Experiment, was released on Austin’s Sonobeat Records in 1968. The following year he signed with Columbia Records, releasing Johnny Winter in June, playing a midnight slot at Woodstock in August and finishing 1969 with the recording of Second Winter. 1970’s Johnny Winter And album marked the beginning of his work with Rick Derringer, an association that would continue for many years, while the latter half of the decade saw Winter produce three albums for his hero Muddy Waters – Hard Again (1977), I'm Ready (1978) and Muddy "Mississippi" Waters – Live (1979).

His final album, Step Back, features contributions from Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons and Joe Perry and is due for release in September.

Check out Johnny’s blazing fretboard genius during some of his finest moments on film:

Johnny Winter at Woodstock, August 1969:

Live In Copenhagen, 1970:

The trailer for new documentary Johnny Winter: Down & Dirty:

PHOTO: Getty Images